How I Choose What To Read Next

I’m a moody reader, so I never know what I’m going to be in the mood for next, and I like most genres. Sometimes my book choices are deliberate, and sometimes they’re more whimsical. Here’s how I pick:

  1. A group I belong to picked it. In general, I try to prioritize these. I belong to a FaceBook YA Book Club for writers. August’s book is Caravel, by Stephanie Garber. This was recommended awhile ago by a friend, and I just never moved it to the top of my list. Now it is. I also belong to a small book club with two friends of mine. We choose a book and all pass it around. It’s supposed to be a three month cycle per book, but I think we’re a bit behind this time around (or maybe it’s just me). For that, I read LaRose, by Louise Erdrich. It was slow reading, but it’s always interesting to step out of my comfort zone and read something I wouldn’t have picked.
  2. Someone recommended it. People know I read a lot, so they’re always recommending books to me. I *try* to get to them before I forget who recommended them. By 1999, approximately half a million people had recommended the Harry Potter series to me, and I stubbornly ignored them because “it couldn’t be that good.” I don’t do that anymore.
    IMG_9220

    Part of my wish list.

  3. I just felt like it, okay? Sometimes, I wander around my house, see a book, and I’m like, “That’s the one.” No rhyme or reason.
  4. I’m in a sad mood or feeling meh, and I need comfort. I have a bunch of go to books for when I need a pick me up. If I need to cry, I read Where The Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it, but I cry. Every. Single. Time. If I’m feeling stuck in a rut, and need adventure, I might read Watership Down, by Richard Adams, or Lightning, by Dean Koontz. If I just need something familiar, I might read Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, or Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (though I usually skip the whole first section at Lowood school).
  5. I was at the library, and it screamed at me to get my attention. I try not to look at the “new fiction” shelf, but sometimes I hear the books calling my name. I know that means that other books will be neglected… but… new books.
  6. I was thinking about a passage from it, and just had to reread it. This happens to me once in awhile. I’ll be thinking about something else, or I’ll watch a movie or read another book, and a particular passage I like comes to mind. Then I’ll either flip through the book to reread just that part, or I’ll reread the whole thing. This happened recently with The Face, by Dean Koontz. No spoilers here, but there’s a part where a cop does something illegal with good intentions, and for some reason, that popped into my head, and I had to find and read that section.

As you can see, I don’t really “choose” what books to read. It’s all kind of random. But the orderly people in my life would say that I’m more governed by chaos than not, so it makes sense. I’m working my way through the 20 Books of Summer, and keeping to a pre-set list is difficult!

How do you choose what books to read next? How do you keep track of books people recommend?

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Books I Read In 2014

On Spontaneous Saturdays, I post something on whatever topic comes to mind.

Berry Springs Park and Preserve Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Berry Springs Park and Preserve
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

In 2013, I started keeping track of the books I read.  I did this partly because I was curious, and partly because I do read a lot of books.  It got to the point that I couldn’t remember what books I’ve read and which I haven’t, so I thought that keeping a list was a good way to figure out if I’ve read a book before or not.  It’s not terribly sophisticated; I just keep a Google docs list so that I can update it anywhere, and I also like to keep track of the amount of time it takes me to read something.  Because I’m almost never without a book, people always asked me how much I read, and I used to tell them it was on average, 5 books a month.  I can see now that I was very much underestimating that.

I started reading 87 books this year, and only didn’t finish two.  One, I stopped reading, and the other, I’m still working on.

Forty of the books were rereads, and 6 of them were from the 100 Classic Books I’m working my way through.

My favorite new books from this year were The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, On Little Wings by Regina Sirois, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl,  The Unfortunate Fairy Tale Books by Chanda Hahn, and Every Ugly Word, Aimee L. Salter.  Interestingly, I didn’t find any new books to go into my all time favorites list, but these are all good, and worth reading.

I tried to read more “smarter” books this year, in addition to the classics.  I learned that while “smart” books might be good for my brain, I hate them.  I’ll stick with the classics, which at least make me feel like I’m accomplishing something, and if nothing else, help me get some references made by other authors.

What was the best book you’ve read this year?

* This is a book I’ve read before.

+ This is a book I didn’t finish

# From my classics list

X This was a book recommended by my book club.

  1.  #1984, George Orwell (12/23/13- 1/4/14)
  2.  The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (1/5- 1/7)
  3.  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (1/12)
  4.  *Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1/12- 1/18)
  5.  +The MELT Method (1/20-
  6.  *Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Amanda Grange (1/20)
  7.  *Christy, Maud Johnson (1/23-1/24)
  8.  *Starting from Square Two, by Karen Lissner (1/27- 1/30)
  9.  X Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon  (1/30- 2/22)
  10.  On Little Wings, by Regina Sirois (2/2- 2/3)
  11.  *Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (2/16-2/17)
  12.  Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman (2/22- 2/28)
  13.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2/28- 3/3)
  14.  *Black Dawn, LJ Smith (3/11)
  15.  *Witchlight, LJ Smith (3/11)
  16.  The Dogs of Christmas, W. Bruce Cameron (3/13- 3/14)
  17.  *The Chosen, LJ Smith (3/16)
  18.  Hollow City, Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (3/18- 3/25)
  19.  Doomed, Chuck Palahniuk (3/26- 4/5)
  20.  *Carolina Moon, Nora Roberts  (4/3-4/4)
  21.  *Genuine Lies, Nora Roberts (4/5-4/10)
  22.  *Red Dragon, Thomas Harris (4/11- 4/15)
  23.  Island of Fire (The Unwanteds 3), Lisa McCann (4/16-4/17)
  24.  *The Host, Stephanie Meyer, (4/18- 4/20)
  25. #*The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis (4/21-4/22)
  26.  *Hannibal, Thomas Harris (4/24-4/28)
  27.  *The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (4/30-5/2)
  28.  The Heartbreak Pill, Anjanette Delgado (5/4-5/12)
  29.  *Baby Island, Carol Ryrie Brink  (5/16)
  30.  X The Glimmer Palace, Beatrice Colin (5/18- 5/26)- boring, read like historical fiction
  31.  #The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman (5/28- 5/31)
  32.  *Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery (6/1-6/2)
  33.  *Anne of Avonlea, LM Montgomery (6/3-6/4)
  34.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (6/5- 6/15)
  35.  The Cold Dish, Craig Johnson (6/6- 6/10)
  36.  The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace (6/17- 7/6)
  37.  *Blue Dahlia, Nora Roberts (6/24-6/25)
  38.  *Black Rose, Nora Roberts (6/25-6/26)
  39.  *Red Lily, Nora Roberts (6/26- 6/30)
  40.  *Jewels of the Sun, Nora Roberts (7/6- 7/7)
  41.  *Tears of the Moon, Nora Roberts (7/7- 7/8)
  42.  *Heart of the Sea, Nora Roberts (7/8- 7/10)
  43.  House of Leaves, Mark Danlewski (7/11- 8/ something)
  44.  *Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (7/17- 7/19)
  45.  *Born in Ice, Nora Roberts (7/27-7/28)
  46.  *Born in Shame, Nora Roberts (7/28-7/29)
  47.  *Born in Fire, Nora Roberts (7/29-7/31)
  48.  *Sea Swept, Nora Roberts (8/1- 8/2)
  49.  *Rising Tides (8/2- 8/3)
  50.  *Inner Harbor, Nora Roberts (8/4)
  51.  Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl (8/5- 8/18)
  52.  Timebound, Rysa Walker (8/18- 8/22)
  53.  *Pride and Predjudice, Jane Austen (8/22- 8/28)
  54.  Four, Veronica Roth (8/28)
  55.  Unenchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1), Chanda Hahn (8/28- 8/29)
  56.  X While I Was Gone, Sue Miller (8/29- 9/2)
  57.  Fairest (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 2), Chanda Hahn (9/2-9/3)
  58.  Fable (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 3), Chanda Hahn (9/3)
  59. X  The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship, Rachelle Friedman (9/4- 9/7)
  60.  *Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire (9/8- 9/11)
  61.  Notes to Self, Avery Sawyer (9/11)- A girl with a head injury has to learn about herself and remember what happened the night of the fall.
  62. Broken Promises, Dawn Pendleton (9/13- 9/15), meh… poorly written, no conflict
  63. It Started With Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and I, Jane Congdon (9/15-  9/21)
  64. Broken Dreams, Dawn Pendleton (9/22)
  65. Broken Pieces, Dawn Pendleton (9/23- 9/24)
  66. Broken Valentine, Dawn Pendleton (9/24- 9/25)
  67. Every Ugly Word, Aimee L. Salter (9/25- 9/26) Young girl being bullied, Older Self, excellent.
  68. Kiss a Girl in the Rain, Nancy Warren (9/29-9/30)
  69. Iris in Bloom, Nancy Warren (9/30- 10/1)
  70. The Mad Tinker’s Daughter, JS Morin (10/2- 10/10)
  71. *Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (10/14- 10/15)
  72. Loving Lauren, Jill Sanders (10/24- 10/25)
  73. X The Light Between Oceans, ML Steadman (10/25- 10/29)
  74. Ghost in the Bedroom, MA Harper (10/30- 11/3)
  75. #Dracula, Bram Stoker (11/4- 11/11)
  76. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg (11/12)
  77. Reign, (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 4), Chanda Hahn (11/13)
  78. #The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (11/14 -11/15)
  79. X #A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway (11/16- 11/25)
  80. The Crying Lot of 49, Thomas Pynchon (11/28- 12/18)
  81. *Divergent, Veronica Roth (12/4)
  82. *Insurgent, Veronica Roth (12/5- 12/6)
  83. *Allegiant, Veronica Roth (12/6- 12/7)
  84. *Blood Brothers, Nora Roberts (12/10- 12/12)
  85. *The Hollow, Nora Roberts (12/12-12/14)
  86. *The Pagan Stone, Nora Roberts (12/14- 12/15)
  87. X +The Night Circus, Erin Morganstern (12/30- present)

“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”

~Author Unknown

Books and Relationships

Turn the page, wouldja?

Turn the page, wouldja?

Zoë Heller and Anna Holmes recently posed the question: Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book?

I found the idea intriguing, and as they both present some of the arguments they’ve had with significant others over books, I envy their passion, at least a little.

You see, I confess: I’ve never dated a man who likes to read.

I don’t know why this would be.  I’m known in my circle of friends as reading more than any human being should have time for.  I devour books.  I read them walking around my house, in the bathtub, in my backyard, and at stoplights.  I read them in line at the grocery store and waiting at the doctor’s office.  To me, waiting is a cause for celebration, not a reason to get upset, because I always have a book in my purse.  And should I forget my book, well, I have a whole stack of books on the Kindle app in my iPhone.

I’ve had friends who like to read, but they usually don’t read the same things I do.  I have several friends who read high fantasy, which is too slow for me, and several friends who read literary fiction that goes over my head.  So I don’t really have people I can discuss books with, or get mad at when they disagree.

I’m part of an online book club, and while I enjoy it, it’s just not the same as sitting down with a good friend over a cup of coffee and discussing why literary fiction is so damn depressing.

Then again, I also can’t imagine getting so passionate about my opinion on any book that I’d break up with someone over their opinion.

Unless they said I read too much.  Then… they’re dead to me.

 

What I Read in 2013, and Other Stuff About Books

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit Doree Weller

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit Doree Weller

I made a few resolutions in 2013, one of which was that I was not going to keep compulsively purchasing books.  I made good use of my library, and managed to practice self-control, for the most part.  Some of the reason I buy books is that I find them in used book stores, and I want to read it, but I know that if I put it on a list of stuff to be read, I’ll probably never get around to getting it from the library or buying from Amazon.  But if I bring it home, I’ll read it eventually.  It sort of works.

One of the things I did to stop myself from buying books was to keep a list of everything I read in 2013.  It was fun, and if I ever wonder, “Did I read that book?” I can go back and look at my list and see the book, along with my thoughts.

I read 76 books in 2013, less than I’ve read in other years, though I don’t actually have the numbers on that.  I just know that in previous years, I’ve read one book after another, reading up to three or four books in a week.  While that’s great and all, I decided I had to stop.  I needed to do more writing, cooking, walking… things you can’t do if you’re just inexhaustibly consuming one book after another.  I’m trying to read more mindfully.

Of the 76 books on my list, 44 were new, 27 were re-reads, and 5 I didn’t finish.  Of the 5 I didn’t finish, 3 were because life is too short to read boring books, and the other two, I just haven’t finished yet.

I’ve included the complete list, along with some notes I made for my own benefit.  Because of my book club, I found 2 new favorite books and took some risks with books I wouldn’t normally read.  Some of them were great, and I’m so happy I tried them.  Others were not books I enjoyed at all, and actually 2 of them were ones I didn’t finish.  I highly recommend reading stuff others recommend.  After all, it doesn’t hurt anything to put a boring book down.  But discovering a new and wonderful book is like an adventure.  I would never have read Beautiful Disaster or The Fault In Our Stars on my own, but I love both books so much now that they’ll be going on my special bookshelf for favorites.

*This is a book I’ve read before.

+This is a book I didn’t finish.

X Book suggested by my book club.

1.  Words Get In The Way by Nan Rossiter  About a boy with autism, pretty good

2.  *Pollyanna by Eleanor M. Porter

3.  *Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

4. X 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster (1/12/13-1/13/13)  A man with Asperger’s… good

5.  Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul (competed 1/15/13)  🙂

6.  The good dream, Donna VanLiere (completed 1/24/13). Women’s fiction, pretty good.

7.  +Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk- just didn’t hold my interest… I tried!

8.  Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake (1/28/13)  Loved it!

9.  Girl of Nightmares, Kendare Blake (sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood)… great!

10.  Unforgettable Lady, Jessica Bird

11.  Fantasy Lover, Sherrilyn Kenyon (2/10/13)- Very good, get more by her.

12. X Zoo, James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge (2/10/13-2/12/13)  Good.

13.  Tempting the Beast, Lora Leigh (2/14/13)  Meh… don’t bother

14.  Sweep, Cate Tiernan (2/16/13)  Young adult series, great fun.

15. Cinder, Marissa Meyer (2/16- 2/17)  Great!

16. *Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K Hamilton (2/18-2/23)

17. *The Laughing Corpse, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/23)

18. *Circus of the Damned, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/23-2/24)

19.  *The Lunatic Cafe, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/25)

20.  *Bloody Bones, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/26-2/28)

21.  *The Killing Dance, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/28-3/1)

22.  *Burnt Offerings, Laurell K Hamilton (3/1-3/5)

23.  X Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (3/6- 3/9)  New for the favorites list.

24. *Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (3/9-3/11)

25.  X+Swamplandia, Karen Russell (3/11-3/14)  It read too much like literary fiction… boring!

26.  The Charming Man, Marian Keyes (3/15- 3/26)

27.  Calculated in Death (#45), JD Robb (3/27-3/31)

28.  Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire (4/2)

29.  +Johnny Cash (4/3-

30. X The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh (4/13-4/14)

31.  Sweet Rains, Nora Roberts (4/22- 4/23)

32.  Scarlet, Marissa Meyer (4/23-4/27)

33.  Blithe Images, Nora Roberts (4/28)

34.  Lover at Last, JR Ward (5/1- 5/4)  Great, of course.

35.  Law of Love, Nora Roberts (5/5-5/8)

36.  *High Noon, Nora Roberts (5/9- 5/11)

37.  Empty Chairs, Stacey Dansen (5/15- 5/18)

38.  *The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (5/18- 5/20)

39.  *Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (5/20)

40.  *Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (5/21)

41.  Shards & Ashes, Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong (5/21-6/4)  Anthology,paranormal  🙂

42.  *50 Shades Darker, EL James (5/30- 6/2)

43. *50 Shades Freed, EL James (6/4- 6/6)

44.  X The Good House, Ann Leary  Not great, worth reading once.

45.  *Someone to Watch Over Me, Judith McNaught (6/22- 6/24)

46.  X The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon (7/8)

47.  This Book is Full of Spiders, David Wong (7/10-7/14), sequel to John Dies at The End

48.  *Blue Smoke, Nora Roberts (7/16- 7/17)

49.  Deeply Odd, Dean Koontz (7/23-7/26)

50.  Whiskey Beach, Nora Roberts (7/27-7/29)

51.  *Northern Lights, Nora Roberts

52.  Blue is for Nightmares, Laurie Faria Stolarz

53.  White is for Magic, Laurie Faria Stolarz

54.  *Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire

55.  *Ice Castles, Leonore Fleisher

56.  *Remember Me, Christopher Pike (9/1-9/4)

57.  Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog, Cesar Millan (9/5-9/7)

58.  *Love Story, Erich Segal (9/10)

59.  *Where The Heart Is, Billie Letts

60.  *The Silver Link, The Silken Tie, Mildred Ames (9/16)

61.  The First Prophet, Kay Hooper (9/24- 9/27)

62. X The Lion is In, Delia Ephron (9/30)

63.  A Street Cat Named Bob: And how he changed my life, James Bowen (10/7)  Nice story

64.  X The Fault in our Stars, John Green (10/8- 10/10)  New for the Favorites List.

65.  Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan

66.  Emma, Jane Austen (10/20- 10/28)

67.  Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,Elizabeth Dunn&Michael Norton (10/26)

68. X My Name is Memory, Ann Brashares (10/30-11/2)

69. X Wild, Cheryl Strayed (11/4-11/11)  Unexpectedly good, memoir

70.  Allegiant, Veronica Roth (11/12- 11/19)

71.  Mirror, Mirror, JD Robb

72.  Thankless in Death, JD Robb (12/10- 12/11)

73.  Innocence, Dean Koontz (12/12- 12/13)

74.  A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog, Dean Koontz (12/14- 12/16)

75. X +In The Woods, Tana French (12/17-12/22)- Nothing happened, so I gave up.

76.  1984, George Orwell (12/23- present)

Swamplandia- A Review

imagesSwamplandia, by Karen Russell, was this month’s book club pick.  I was skeptical about it from the start as it sounded more like literary fiction than genre fiction to me.  By this, I mean that it sounded more like a book that makes you think than a book where anything actually happens.  Don’t get me wrong; I love books that make me think, but I need plot too!

I gave up when I was about 100 pages in.  I tried to convince myself “It’s a third of the way through the book.  Just get through it!”  It didn’t work.  One of the other women in the club who finished (and loved) the book said it “got slow” in the middle but was “worth it.”  I thought that if it got much more slow, it would be going backward.

It’s funny, but on Amazon, the star ratings are pretty evenly spread between 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  I’ve never seen that before in a book!

I wanted to like it, and I gave it more of a chance as a book club read than I would have if I were reading it on my own.  Though in fairness, I never would have picked it up had it not been this month’s selection.  I didn’t like it.  It’s well written with interesting characters, but no plot to speak of, and no forward momentum.  We’re thrust into the world of Swamplandia, and I didn’t care enough about anything in the book to keep reading.  Unless you really love literary fiction (in which case, why are you reading my blog?), I’d suggested passing on this one.

Gone Girl- A Review

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, is not a book I would have normally chosen to read.  Not that it wasn’t a book I would like, but if not for my book club, it never would have come up on my radar.

Nick’s wife, Amy, has disappeared from their home.  Nick has no idea why anyone would want to hurt Amy, but their house shows signs of a struggle.  The story of Amy’s disappearance is told from Nick’s point of view, offset by Amy’s diary entries from the time they met, up until the day of the disappearance.

For the first 100 pages, I couldn’t decide if I liked the book or not.  It definitely caught my interest, and compelled me to keep reading, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to go on the “like,” “dislike,” or “meh” mental shelf.

By the time I got to the end, I absolutely loved the book.  I liked the ending, I liked the suspense, and I liked that the book kept me in a constant state of tension.  I couldn’t wait to read the ending.

Now for the bad… So far I’m the ONLY person in my book club who liked the ending.  We haven’t discussed in any detail yet, as there are those who haven’t read it, but if it were majority rule, the ending would have to go.

Let me just say this: if you’re up for something a little different, that will keep you guessing until the end, give this book a try.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.